You are reading: Bali Process Senior Official Meetings reflect on progress and collaborative approaches to address complex regional concerns Bali Process Senior Official Meetings reflect on progress and collaborative approaches to address complex regional concerns
01 July 2024 | Event
Bali Process Senior Official Meetings reflect on progress and collaborative approaches to address complex regional concerns

The 18th Bali Process Steering Group meeting, and the 17th Bali Process Ad Hoc Group meeting, held over 2-3 May 2024 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, reflected on activities and achievements made since the Eighth Bali Process Ministerial Conference held in Adelaide, Australia in February 2023 and discussed progress against the Adelaide Strategy for Cooperation.

The Bali Process Steering Group Meeting, which ensures that Bali Process priorities reflect regional needs and sets the agenda for Ministerial Conferences, was attended by the Governments of Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand, Thailand, The International Organization for Migration (IOM), The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Regional Support Office of the Bali Process (RSO)—with the meeting providing strategic direction for discussions on Bali Process activities and priorities at the Ad Hoc Group meeting.

The 17th Bali Process Ad Hoc Group meeting was co-chaired by Bali Process Senior Official Co-Chairs—Ambassador Lynn Bell, Australia’s Ambassador to Counter Modern Slavery, People Smuggling and Human Trafficking, and Ambassador Tri Tharyat, Indonesian Director-General for Multilateral Cooperation.

You can read an interview with the Bali Process Senior Official Co Chairs, reflecting on the meetings and next steps for the Bali Process here.

RSO Co-Managers from Australia and Indonesia updated Member States on RSO capability development initiatives delivered in 2023. Representatives from Bali Process Working Groups and the Bali Process Government and Business Forum (GABF) also provided updates on the implementation of work plans and the delivery of activities. Ad Hoc Group members in attendance included Australia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, The United Arab Emirates, The United States of America, and Viet Nam, alongside Member Organisations IOM, UNHCR and The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Regional challenges and priorities

With the continued recovery of international travel in 2023, and transnational criminal networks use of emerging technologies to facilitate people smuggling and trafficking in persons, the region has continued to experience challenges in responding to these transnational crimes. Irregular movements by land, sea and air continue to rise and drivers of irregular migration persist, with irregular maritime movements in the Andaman Sea region an ongoing concern for the Bali Process.

Bali Process member governments and Working Groups, with support from the RSO, have prioritised rebuilding connections, and enhancing partnerships and collaboration both within the Bali Process and with other regional forums and organisations, to enhance joint coordination and action as these challenges continue to evolve across the region.

Ambassador Lynn Bell noted, “The great strength of the Bali Process as the premier regional forum for policy dialogue and cooperation to counter people smuggling and trafficking in persons is our ability to draw together different perspectives from different governments, organisations, and key actors.”

Support for Bali Process members and looking ahead for the RSO

RSO Co-Managers David Scott (Australia) and Fuad Adriansyah (Indonesia) provided an update on RSO support to Bali Process members and achievements made over 2023, as well as looking ahead to the RSO’s future activity and Work Plan, jointly shaped with Bali Process members.

In 2023, the RSO convened 17 multi-stakeholder dialogues, 7 capacity building workshops and training activities, and trained 348 practitioners in countering trafficking in persons and people smuggling from across 14 Member States. The RSO published 12 research papers and reports and launched the refreshed Bali Process Website. The RSO contributed to 8 Bali Process Senior Official and Working Group Meetings and showcased its work at 21 external events, forging new partnerships and strengthening policy dialogue.

In 2024, the RSO will build on this momentum with a new Strategy for 2024-2026, to support Member States holistically respond to challenges related to the Bali Process mandate.

The RSO was also grateful to acknowledge a funding commitment to the RSO announced by the Government of New Zealand, to support the RSO Secondments Programme, further strategic relationships and deepen regional cooperation through the Bali Process Working Group on the Disruption of People Smuggling and Trafficking in Persons Networks, which is co-chaired by New Zealand and Viet Nam.

Senior Official Co-Chairs, Ambassadors Lynn Bell and Tri Tharyat, acknowledged the efforts of the RSO in providing practical and technical support to members of the Bali Process through capacity building, knowledge sharing and policy dialogue. In particular, the RSO’s hosting of a Roundtable on Combatting Maritime People Smuggling in the Andaman Sea Region, in February 2024, was noted.

Ambassador Tri Tharyat reflected, “We are happy to see that the Bali Process has advanced regional responses to trafficking in persons and people smuggling through the implementation, with RSO support, of various concrete activities that enhances the capabilities of countries in the region through workshops, capacity building programs and research endeavours.”

Bali Process Working Groups and Government and Business Forum

Attendees also heard updates from each of the Bali Process Working Groups on the outcomes of their Annual Meetings and progress made against current work plans, including regional thematic events and partnerships formed. Rebuilding connections and harnessing the expertise across the membership of Working Groups has been a priority in 2023, and Bali Process Working Group Co-Chairs shared insights on the priorities and activities of their Forward Work Plans.

The Working Group on the Disruption of People Smuggling and Trafficking in Persons Networks updated on progress made through its 12-month Joint Period of Action, with partnerships for targeted investigations to counter trafficking and smuggling activities established between New Zealand and Viet Nam, and between Thailand and Sri Lanka.

The Co-Chairs of the Technical Experts Group on Returns and Reintegration noted the steps taken to reinvigorate the working group into a practical, solutions-orientated forum to support Bali Process members, and to address shared challenges in returns and reintegration across the region.

The Working Group on Trafficking in Persons (WG TIP) reflected on the ongoing need to support effective and coordinated responses to trafficking in persons for forced criminality in cyber scam centres. The Task Force on Planning and Preparedness (TFPP) highlighted opportunities and efforts to enhance collaboration with the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC). The TFPP has aligned its annual meeting with the WG TIP, and noted it remains responsive and prepared to coordinate action at an operational level in response to situations of mass migration in the region.

The achievements of the Government and Business Forum (GABF) were also highlighted, particularly discussions stemming from the GABF Tech Forum in August 2023, where government and business leaders considered the role of technology as both a driver of and a potential solution to modern slavery, human trafficking and forced labour. It highlighted ways for governments and businesses to collaborate, including via awareness raising initiatives using media and digital technology platforms.

‘Keeping our spirit of energy for cooperation’

Looking ahead to the Ninth Bali Process Ministerial Conference, both Senior Official Co-Chairs emphasised the importance of continued regional cooperation and coordination, drawing on the wide pool of expertise and good practice developed across Bali Process members.

This includes coordinated work with the RSO, across the Bali Process Working Groups, broadening efforts with the private sector, and increased coordination through the Government and Business Forum. The importance of ensuring civil society and lived experience perspectives in Bali Process activities was emphasised, as well as the development of complementary activities with related forums.

Bali Process Co-Chairs advocated for the development of an enhanced coordination strategy to support engagement with other regional forums.

“Moving forward, I would like to reiterate the importance of keeping our spirit of energy for cooperation,” said Pak Tri. “Combating transnational crime will need collaboration, open communication, and goodwill to share information.”